Those blossoming kids cut down in the spring of their lives were the future assets of Pakistan. On them we pegged our hopes for a brighter, cleaner and leaner Pakistan. By mowing them down like wild weeds the barbarians have robbed the nation of its dreams
KARAMATULLAH K GHORI
[dropcap]G[/dropcap]eorge ‘Dubya’ Bush was dead wrong in his histrionic rhetoric of ‘you’re either with us or against us’ in the wake of the cataclysm of 9/11. He was wrong because there was no existentialist threat to US from a nebulous cave-dwelling enemy.
But on the heels of the dastardly—craven and cowardly—crime committed against the innocent children of Peshawar’s Army Public School, on December 16, every patriotic Pakistani ought to be raising this slogan: ‘If you’re for Pakistan then you’ve to be against the barbarians going around as the Taliban.’
That these blood-thirsty wolves from the Stone Age are an existential threat to Pakistan has never been a matter of dispute to those who have the good sense to fathom the heinous dimensions of their agenda of doom for Pakistan. But for those who may have had any visceral reservations about this statement the blood of innocent children spilled in Peshawar by these vandals should suffice to put their doubts to rest.
That these barbaric Taliban are an existential threat to Pakistan should, henceforth, be as clear as daylight to every Pakistani in love with their country because after declaring their unholy crusade against the Pakistan Army the predators are now, obviously, going after the torch-bearers of Pakistan’s future—its youths.
Those blossoming kids cut down in the spring of their lives were the future assets of Pakistan. On them we pegged our hopes for a brighter, cleaner and leaner Pakistan. By mowing them down like wild weeds the barbarians have robbed the nation of its dreams. This is a robbery that must be traced and its perpetrators punished; it’s a bluff that must be called because if we allowed the criminals responsible for this heinous crime to go unpunished we shall be answerable to our future generations.
Should we expect our leaders to rise to this challenge? Yes, we do.
Should we expect them to sink their differences in the deep of this national calamity? Yes, we do.
But we’d be naïve to pin much hope on this chimera, given the pugilist instincts of our leaders. Settling old scores even in the teeth of tragedies—and there couldn’t be a more colossal tragedy than this Peshawar trauma—is a congenital weakness of our politicos. And the urge to pull no punches is just irresistible for them.
For the record, our leaders on the spot have had the savvy to make good initial moves.
Nawaz Sharif, for once, had the good sense to not remain cloistered in the company of his so-called kitchen cabinet. He rushed to Peshawar to be where the tragedy was still unfolding.
Nawaz’ nemesis, Imran Khan, also hurried to the scene of the crime and decided to call off his previously-announced agitation for December 18 in Islamabad. It was magnanimous on his part in the flush of the remarkable success of PTI’s massive protest in Lahore the previous day. He’d every reason to be swayed by the groundswell of support for him in Lahore, long written off as the impregnable fort of Sharif Bros.
A lesser man would’ve, easily, given in to the temptation of tightening the screws, even further, on a beleaguered Nawaz. But Imran may be anything but puny. He has rallied to the innate call of the great calamity that has struck the nation and decided to extend his fullest cooperation to the government. That’s sign of a mature leader.
Those naysayers who’ve been beating their drums against Imran and mouthing his enemies’ propaganda that he is at bay about the basics of politics—as Zardari had the gall to suggest, recently—should eat their hearts out. Imran has the sense to know that a nation’s collective woe demands closing of ranks as a fundamental obligation to its people.
That the venal Taliban are testing the nation whether it has the will—and vision—to take them on at their own game is beyond contention. It’s now for the nation to prove itself up to the challenge, with or without its current leadership.
The performance of the rulers, thus far, has been dismal and half-hearted. The nation has every right to hold its current rulers accountable for their lackluster and below-expectations measures supposedly taken to combat the menace of the Taliban and other terrorists of their ilk.
It took US Congress a matter of few hours to legislate a most comprehensive set of new laws and regulations to combat the challenge thrown their way by Al Qaeda in the wake of 9/11. The war on terror—kicked off within days of the tragedy that had claimed a toll of 3000-plus lives, not all of them American—hasn’t looked back, to date. It’s another story, of course, that after 13 years, an expenditure of $ 4.4 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives lost, worldwide in the unending war, it hasn’t made the world any safer, or rooted out terrorism. The opposite is quite the truth; terrorism, today, has morphed into a more heinous monster than it was on the day-after 9/11.
But what a pity that after more than 50,000 Pakistani lives lost to terrorism and a staggering blow of tens of billions of dollars to its economy, Pakistan is still without a comprehensive policy plan to overcome the likes of the Taliban and root out their terror from the land.
It could only be called criminal negligence the way our ruling elites have been turning either a blind eye—as was the reaction, initially—or turning the other cheek—much of the time—in the face of the Taliban’s relentless incursion into the heartland of Pakistan to dictate their agenda of depravity and doom.
There’s nothing conjectural about it that Nawaz government would still be dilly-dallying in its response to the Taliban menace had the army not forced their hands. The military operation—zarb-e-Azb—in North Waziristan—and the impressive successes it has already chalked up—literally capped any lingering desire in Nawaz and the company to still try out the failed option of talking to the enemy.
It’s no secret that Chaudhry Nisar, the Minister of Interior, came to the point of deserting Nawaz because his paranoid ‘advice’ to PM to persist with the option of dialogue with the Taliban hadn’t been heeded.
With a government in power—which has never, to date, ennobled itself with any spark of genius to come up with a well-thought-out strategy to come to grips with the menace of terrorism—what should the nation demand from other ‘actors’ and ‘stakeholders’ in the game of power?
Clearly, the army has come up with the best option, thus far, to turn back the swelling tide of terrorism in the country. Raw power has to be deployed to roll back the deadly challenge posed for so many years by the likes of the Taliban and other merchants of doom.
However, the ongoing operation shouldn’t remain confined to only Waziristan or other Taliban –infested tribal areas. If there was any doubt that the menace has already seeped into the cities and urban centers of Pakistan the massacre of flowering children in broad daylight—and that too in the supposedly ‘safe haven’ of the Cantonment—in Peshawar should rest it for good.
Our cities—Karachi being a prime example of it—have long been sheltering the terrorists and serving as their safe havens. The scourge of terrorism will not be weeded out until the military operation was extended to all suspected urban conglomerations in the country.
Should it be left solely to the army to go after the terrorist havens? No, it shouldn’t.
The military leadership says it has the capacity and capability to take on the terrorists and chase them out of Pakistan for good. Our faith in our military leadership is intact. It has, if anything, gone up several notches, given the army’s impressive gains in the Waziristan operation. However, scouring a city as densely populated as Karachi—with its beehive havens affording sanctuary to the terror merchants—to weed out the murderers will be another cup of tea. It would require unstinted team work from political parties with their urban networks fully on board.
That, in other words, necessitates the formation of a government of national unity; now. And GHQ must insist on it; in fact demand it, as the price of ridding the country of the scourge of terrorism.
The task of going after the hydra-headed monster of terrorism in Pakistan can’t be handled—and shouldn’t be left to—the ruling clique alone. It has failed the test of capability before and can’t be expected to give itself an incarnation of a different kind.
That brings in the ineluctable need for a national unity government to take the fight against the terrorists to a logical culmination.
Imran Khan’s PTI—if not he himself—should be on board, per se. So should MQM, for the sake of Karachi and the enormity of the chips at stake there.
It also means the governor’s rule in Sindh, because the court jesters keeping the province in their thrall, are part of the problem and shouldn’t be expected to provide any solutions. They must be sent packing, along with all other rogues and scoundrels.